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Santa Barbara Can’t Seal the Deal, Falls to Buena to Create 3-Way Tie for 2nd Place

Deadlock for automatic playoff CIF berth will be broken by a vote of the five Channel League principals

Santa Barbara’s Johnnie Coleman, left, and Natani Drati break up a pass intended for Buena’s Andrew Tilkens in the end zone. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara’s Johnnie Coleman, left, and Natani Drati break up a pass intended for Buena’s Andrew Tilkens in the end zone. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Who’s No. 2?

Santa Barbara High’s football team missed its chance to claim sole possession of second place in the Channel League and an automatic CIF-SS playoff berth by losing to Buena 33-19 in the regular-season finale on Thursday night at La Playa Stadium.

As a result, the Dons finish in a three-way deadlock for second with Buena and Ventura at 2-2. Dos Pueblos, 3-0 going into Friday's game with San Marcos, won the league title outright.

The principals of the league’s five schools will vote to determine which team gets the No. 2 spot and the playoff bid that goes with it. The remaining two will have to wait and see if there are any at-large berths available in their respective playoff divisions. Santa Barbara (5-5 overall) plays in Division 9, Buena (4-6) is in Division 8 and Ventura (5-5) is in Division 5.

This marks the second straight year Santa Barbara has been involved in a principals' vote to break a tie for an automatic playoff berth. Last year, the Dons finished in a three-way tie for first and lost the vote for the two automatic spots. They managed to get an at-large berth to the playoffs.

“It’s tough, especially when we didn’t need to have a vote,” said an exasperated Santa Barbara coach JT Stone after watching his team get off to a slow start and hurt itself with mistakes. “We do what we’re supposed to do, we’re fine.”

Santa Barbara quarterback Frankie Gamberdella threw for a career-high 467 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score.

But it wasn’t enough to overcome the passing of Buena quarterback Coby Barbar and the running of Tanner Butterbaugh. Barbar completed 19 of 32 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns and Butterbaugh rushed for 116 yards on 20 carries and scored a touchdown.

“We had our opportunities, we just made too many mistakes,” Stone said. “I told my boys we got to put in the work in regards to being masters of your craft. You just can’t come out and play football and not pay attention to details. We didn’t do that, we lost on detailed stuff. 

“We had dropped balls, poor reading. I thought our defense played well. We just kicked ourselves in the butt tonight. We just did not play good enough to win this game.”

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 16-0 lead in the first half. Andrew Tilkens kicked a 20-yard field goal and Buena capitalized on a Jerrett Howery interception of a deflected Gamberdella pass in the red zone. 

On the third play after the interception, Barbar found Devin Morris open in the middle of the Santa Barbara defense and the wide receiver cut against the grain and scored on a 63-yard pass play. The Bulldogs missed the PAT kick and led 9-0 in the first quarter.

Santa Barbara got a break when Dallas Redick picked off Barbar pass at the Dons’ 24. 

Gamberdella moved the team to the Buena 19. He was sacked for a 5-yard loss on third down and his fourth-down pass was dropped. 

Buena took advantage, driving down the field behind a couple of passes from Barbar and 34-yard run by Butterbaugh. The Bulldog running back scored the touchdown on a 20-yard run. Tilkens' PAT made it 16-0 with 3:10 left in the second quarter.

Santa Barbara quarterback Frankie Gamberdella beats Buena defender Justin Franckowiak to the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara quarterback Frankie Gamberdella beats Buena defender Justin Franckowiak to the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Gamberdella drove Santa Barbara into the red zone again. The Dons got a break on a fourth and goal when Buena was called for a face-mask penalty, moving the ball to the 5. But they failed to convert on their second shot at the end zone and gave the ball back to Buena with 13 seconds left in the half.

Redick recovered a Buena fumble on its first possession of the second half, and the Dons capitalized on the turnover. Gamberdella hit Natani Drati for a 29-yard touchdown and Jose Lopez kicked the PAT to get the Dons back in the game, 16-7.

But Santa Barbara’s defense couldn’t stop Barbar and the Bulldogs. The quarterback drove his team into field-goal range and Tilkens delivered from 36 yards for a 19-7 lead with 4:40 left in the third quarter.

Buena’s defense then came up big, picking off Gamberdella and setting up the offense for another score. Barbar hit Justin Anderson on a fade pattern for an 18-yard touchdown, giving Buena a 26-7 advantage with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.

Gamberdella and the Dons struck back. He connected with Dakota Hill for 40 yards and, after a Santa Barbara penalty, completed a 37-yard pass to Rafa Regalado to put the ball at the 4.  Gamberdella ran for the touchdown, cutting the deficit in half at 26-13 at 11:55 of the fourth quarter. 

Gamberdella completed 38 of 52 passes for 467 yards.

He completed four of five passes on Santa Barbara’s next possession and hit Regalado on an 18-yard pass for a touchdown to move the Dons to 26-19 with 6:48 to go.

An inspired Santa Barbara defense stepped up and forced Buena to punt.

Starting at his 13, Gamberdella moved the Dons to their 34 and was faced with a fourth and 5. He was pressured by the Bulldogs and tried to hit Jackson Gonzales, but the pass fell short.

Buena sealed the win when Howery busted through the line on a fourth and 1 and scored on a 25-yard run.

“We didn’t seal the deal,” said Stone. “We made way too many mistakes.”

The Dons will find out Sunday if they make the playoffs.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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